PokerStars Server Crash Interrupts Games Worldwide

March 5th, 2015 | by Brian Corlisse
 PokerStars tables freeze Tuesday morning

PokerStars was down for two hours Tuesday morning, causing the premature end of many tournaments across the site. (Image: PokerStars.com)

PokerStars suffered a two-hour outage that impacted players worldwide on Tuesday morning, sending players into a temporary panic but causing no obvious long-term concerns for the site.

The outage began at approximately 4:40 am Eastern Time, when action on tables across PokerStars.com froze, scaring players who were in a variety of games on the site.

On Two Plus Two, players complained about being stuck in heads-up sit and go’s, being deep in big money tournaments, or simply having their sessions interrupted. Before long, PokerStars officials were on hand to explain what happened.

Issues Persist for About Two Hours

“Hi folks,” Lee Jones wrote on Twitter, “we know that @PokerStars is down…the software guys are swarming on it. We’ll update you the moment we know more.”

On Two Plus Two, “PokerStars Baard” chimed in to acknowledge that the company was aware of the issue.

“Unfortunately, we are experiencing some site issues at the moment,” he wrote. “We are working at getting them resolved as quickly as possible, and will get back to you when we have more information.”

After about two hours and one unplanned server restart, things were back to normal. However, while PokerStars worked to minimize the impact on the site, there was one major issue: because of the length of the freeze and the unscheduled server restart, tournaments that were in progress were “rolled forward” and completed prematurely.

That meant that tournament players had to be compensated. In tournaments that hadn’t reached the money stage, all players remaining in the tournament received their entry fee back, and the prize pool was split up, with 50 percent of the pool being split evenly and the other half being split according to chip count. For tournaments that were already in the money, every player first received the minimum prize available, with the rest of the cash being split according to chip stacks.

Downtime Has Been Major Issue for Poker Sites in Recent Months

While there were some complaints over the length of the outage, the response from PokerStars and the general feeling that the current software has been somewhat unstable, it’s unlikely that this will be a major stumbling block for the site. However, outages have seemed more frequent across the industry as a whole lately, and while this one may have come during off-peak hours, others have come at very inopportune times.

In November, the first event of the 2014 Swedish Masters, an online poker series run by the state-owned Svenska Spel, was cancelled after a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack interrupted the tournament. The attacks seemed timed to disrupt the important series, but DDoS attacks proved to be a continuing thorn in the side of the site.

A similar fate befell the “Winning Millions” tournament in December, which was an attempt by the Winning Poker Network to offer a $1 million prize pool on a US-facing online poker site for the first time since Black Friday. The tournament began but was cancelled after about 5.5 hours, as organizers believed that the connectivity situation made the event unfair to players. That led to a complete refund for all players, despite the fact that much of the field had already been eliminated.

However, while these issues appeared to be the result of deliberate attacks, there is no evidence to suggest PokerStars was victimized in the same way: the site only mentioned “technical problems” as the cause of the interruption in service.

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